Wednesday, May 22, 2013

But I don't actually want to go to Disney World, I thought, as I read the anonymous letter announcing I'd won an all-expenses-paid trip. Still, my hands shook so much from excitement I could hardly make sense of the part that said a Nigerian prince had bought me a ticket in the Irish Lottery and it'd been picked for first prize. Who was I to look a gift horse in the mouth? I read all the details on the enclosed calendar, congratulated myself on my luck, and started to pack.

It's not that I don't like Disneyland, I thought as an oversized mouse wearing a sombrero greeted me at the entrance. It's their relentless, over-the-top marketing. They don't just advertise: it's like they've bought off every journalist in the universe. When, for instance, the New York Times prints an article about Walmart's sweatshop problems, they mysteriously find a way to bring up Epcot. When ESPN anchors mention Michael Vick's dog conviction they somehow manage to tie in Lady and the Tramp.

The mouse presented me with a "magic rose" that I'd tap against an iPad specifying everything I wanted to do. But all the glitz and glitter shrouded a distasteful media cynicism, I thought as my boat quietly glided through Ariel's undersea grotto at Disney World's New Fantasyland. They don't just blur the line between advertising and reality -- they totally decimate it!

Every time I pick up a magazine or newspaper they just happen to have a "totally unbiased" critic gushing about how fabulous the place is. Really, Conde Nast Traveller: don't you sense even a small disconnect to put a twelve-page photo spread of Orlando, Florida in between Louis Vuitton ads? And c'mon, Vogue: I don't think Pocahontas would ever wear Prada, though I can think of more than a few excuses for that "Fuck the world!" look on her face.

Even Dopey would realize that Disney owns ABC within three minutes of tuning in. America's Funniest Home Videos mentions a Disney park every four minutes -- when they're not actually filming there. Modern Family has dropped by. I'm surprised Saturday Night Football hasn't decided to use animated seahorses in place of goal posts.

It's not just annoying -- it's offensive! I nearly gave Ariel the finger when she waved at me from her clamshell. The raves are so ubiquitous I actually asked Goofy about it over lunch.

"Gawrsh," he said, "I haven't noticed. A'course, I cain't read!"

Was he just playing stupid, I asked myself, or were those giant shoes for real? The whole exchange left a bitter taste in my mouth, though that could have been the warm arugula salad that Chip N' Dale brought for my entree.

Still, as I rode the pumpkin carriage toward Tomorrowland, I thought it'd be sour grapes not to try to enjoy the place. "I think I'll go on Space Mountain," I said to Goofy. "Or do you think the line will be too long?"

"Duh," he said, "I'm pretty durned stupid but even I noticed that you're the only dude here!"

The place really was deserted, I noticed, so I decided to take advantage of it and have an old-fashioned blast. I even enjoyed a ride I usually detest -- "It's A Small World" -- though maybe it's because I never noticed the signs saying, "Welcome, Roman!" in forty-two languages.

Maybe it was exhaustion speaking, but by the end of the day they won me over. After going on twenty or thirty rides and gorging myself on every food known to man, I realized there was a reason journalists were unanimous in their praise. I was heading for the exit with tears in my eyes when Gaston appeared out of nowhere with a hoagie sandwich and an orchid corsage.

I usually don't let men kiss me but I make concessions when Italian cheese is involved. Despite the fact his beard stubble could clean lasagna pans, a familiar worry reappeared. "Disney doesn't give journalists special treatment in exchange for free publicity?" I asked.

"Absolutely not," he replied. "I ask everyone to go with me on a moonlight swim, even if they aren't incredibly handsome."

By the time we reached the white sand beach at Mark Twain Island, I was exhausted, though he was the one who'd swum across the lake with me hanging onto his back. We collapsed on the sand and watched the stars twinkle in the sky. "Isn't this romantic?" he asked, shaking the water from his silky locks and moving in close. "Just the two of us, and the sun setting behind the authentic New Orleans large-capacity paddle-wheel riverboat."

I watched water droplets run in rivulets down his firm pecs and in between his abs. "You mesmerize me, you enchant me, you bewitch me," he continued, cupping my chin and looking deep into my eyes. "You've even made me forget that chick. That girl. That -- what's her name."

"Belle," I replied.

"Don't remind me," he said, "though it's difficult to forget a film that's grossed over $810 million worldwide."

A meerkat bearing champagne appeared out of nowhere and Gaston popped the cork. "To us!" he said as we clinked glasses. "You drive me wild, like the recently-renovated Cars attraction in the refurbished Adventureland."

With bubbles breaking on our lips he kissed me. His lips felt like the pillows that singing flamingos had carried over to prop us up. "I can't believe you treat every visitor like this," I whispered.

"Every single one," he confirmed, flipping me over for a back massage. "We do not treat you any better because 17 people read World Class Stupid every day."

I sighed and decided for the first time in my life that I'd been a total idiot. Fireworks burst over our heads while Gaston slid down his underwear, and as he said "Get ready for Dumbo!" I thought, wait.

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